What Makes a Credible Witness in a Car Accident Claim?June 21, 2021
When a motorist is involved in a car accident, there are a number of steps that he or she must take, particularly if the accident caused injuries. For example, it is crucial that a motorist call 911 so that dispatch can send a police officer and emergency medical technicians to the scene of the accident. Motorists are also strongly urged to take pictures of the accident scene, including the damage to the vehicles, injuries, skid marks or debris in the road, and weather conditions at the time of the accident. If there were witnesses who saw the accident, they can provide an official statement about the events leading up to the accident, how the accident occurred, and who was at fault. When it comes to witness testimonies, however, if the witness lacks credibility in the eyes of a judge or jury, this can end up hurting the case and can even result in the claim being denied. An experienced car accident lawyer will closely review all witness testimonies, interview the witnesses personally, and determine whether their testimony is of value to the case.
Why are Witness Testimonies So Important?
When a car accident victim files a personal injury claim after being injured in a car accident, the insurance adjuster will review the claim carefully to find holes in the victim’s story so the insurance company can deny the claim or offer a lower settlement amount. A credible witness statement can provide powerful evidence proving that the other driver was at fault. Credible witnesses are individuals who were not involved in the car accident, are not personally connected to either driver, and do not have a personal or financial interest in the outcome of the case. In some cases, if there is no other compelling proof that the other motorist caused the accident, a credible witness testimony can provide the key evidence needed to reach a successful outcome. If the case ends up in court, the following are examples of how a credible witness can be very useful:
- Evidence of inconsistent testimony: If a witness’s testimony is inconsistent with their written statement, the injured party’s lawyer can refer to the written statement as evidence that the witness changed their story.
- Clear testimony: Even the most credible witnesses can have trouble remembering important details about the accident when they are on the stand. The witness may read his or her written statement aloud or use it to help remember key details.
- Admissions of fault: If the witness testifies that they heard the other driver admit fault for the accident, this is very compelling, and will likely help the judge rule in favor of the injured victim.
How Do I Obtain a Statement from a Witness?
Car accidents can be extremely stressful and overwhelming, particularly when one or more of the motorists involved suffered serious injuries. If this is the case, the first priority should always be to seek immediate medical attention for the injuries. Depending on the nature and severity of the injuries, the injured victim should assess the situation, collect as much physical evidence as possible, and take steps that will help their case if they decide to file a personal injury claim against the other driver. The injured victim is also urged to take a moment to look around and see if there are people in the general vicinity who may have critical information about the events leading up to the accident. The following are examples of possible witnesses:
- Drivers and passengers in the other vehicles involved in the accident
- Other people in the vicinity who stopped to help after the accident
- Customers, employees, or business owners who saw the accident happen
- Road or utility workers
- Pedestrians or bicyclists who were passing by at the time of the accident
Security cameras can also provide valuable evidence if the camera recorded the accident. If a business, store, gas station, or private residence had a surveillance camera in use at the time of the accident, this can provide irrefutable evidence about the accident and who was at fault. Oftentimes, ATMs are also equipped with cameras that record the area around the machine. The motorists can ask to view the video that was recorded at the time of the accident or request a copy of the video.
The police officer who arrives at the accident scene will likely take statements from any witnesses who are at the scene of the accident. However, it is up to the car accident victim to seek out other potential witnesses who may have left the scene immediately following the accident, or who may have witnessed the accident from their home, their car, or a place of business. Car accident victims are urged to get the investigating officer’s name and badge number and provide the officer with any witness information the victim is able to obtain.
What Factors Impact Witness Credibility?
Witness credibility is based on a number of factors, including the relationship of the witness to the accident victim, whether the witness has a criminal record or a history of lying to the police, and whether the witness’ view of the accident was obstructed at all. The following are additional examples of factors that would make a car accident witness less credible and ultimately do considerable damage to the accident claim:
- Details of the statement were inconsistent.
- The witness was hostile when providing the statement.
- The witness was engaged in activities that may have prevented him or her from witnessing the accident.
- The witness’ vantage point would have made it difficult to see the accident occur.
- The witness saw only the aftermath of the accident, as opposed to the entire crash.
- The witness was involved in the accident, which would make the person a victim rather than a witness.
- The individual was convicted of a felony.
- The witness was a friend of the accident victim.
- The witness was easily confused.
- The person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.
- The witness was distracted.
- The witness has poor eyesight or impaired hearing.
What Tips Should I Keep in Mind When Speaking to Witnesses?
There are right and wrong ways to approach a witness who was present at the time of the accident. After a car accident, tensions are often running high, particularly if the accident caused extensive property damage and serious injuries. However, one should not approach a witness aggressively or attempt to lead them about what they did or did not see happen. In fact, if a witness feels pressured, they may be less likely to cooperate. However, if the car accident victim approaches the victim in a calm and respectful way, the witness will likely be much more willing to cooperate and provide a credible statement. The following tips should be kept in mind when asking a witness for a statement:
- Ask the witness to write down everything that he or she saw and heard in the moments leading up to the accident, when the accident occurred, and immediately following the accident.
- If the witness is not comfortable providing a written statement, ask permission to write their statement down for them. Once the statement is written, the witness should review the statement, and then sign and date it.
- Written statements do not need to be notarized.
- Witnesses also have the option of recording their statement if they do not want to provide a written statement. Ideally, this should be a video recording, and the witness should provide his or her name and contact information in the recording.
In some cases, the at-fault driver may unintentionally help the injured motorist’s case if the at-fault driver makes a statement that could imply fault. For example, if the at-fault driver apologizes for not seeing the victim and explains that they looked away from the road only for a moment, the injured driver may use this as an unintentional statement against the other driver. Statements such as these can carry a lot of weight from a legal standpoint. However, they can work against the injured driver as well if the driver who was injured apologizes for their role in the accident or says anything after the accident that could be used against them.
Baltimore Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Justice for Victims of Car Accidents
If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a car accident, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We understand how overwhelming car accidents can be, particularly if you suffered a serious injury. Witness testimonials can provide key evidence and help prove that the other driver was at fault for causing the accident. We will thoroughly review all of the witness statements, determine whether they are credible, and ensure that they are included as evidence. Our dedicated team will assist you with the claims process and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.